Back to Work – Post Holiday Planning

Back to Work

Are you ready to get back to work?

I’ve often mused over the saying ‘the older you get the faster time goes’ as it does seem to generally hold true but I think I would now change it to ‘the older you get the faster change happens’.

It only seems like yesterday that it was New Year and new planning was being done for the coming months.  Those months seemed to stretch inexorably ahead and there seemed to be plenty of time to get everything done. After the holiday season, you and your clients are back to work and occasionally it can take some time to get back in the swing of things.

And then, in a flash, the end of the year is looming.  Certain plans made earlier are taking longer to come to fruition or have hit delaying obstacles if they haven’t withered and died along the way.  It won’t be long before another new year begins and progress assessment so far is not as bright as may have been hoped for.

At this stage a number of feelings can occur.  Frustration, exhaustion, general malaise, worry and even panic.

Don’t stress over getting back to work

I have written in the past about how plans must come with continual re-assessment and change of tack when necessary.  If you have been doing so then the situation I describe above should not happen as you will have been keeping pace with the ever changing scenarios and be ahead of the game.

However, if you have not been vigilant and flexible beforehand that the state I allude to may well be foremost in your mind. 

However, even if you are the latter there is no need for knee-jerk reactions or headless chicken antics.  The important thing is to concentrate on the NOW.

Use now, whenever that may be, to re-assess, re-group, re-plan, change direction.  The WHEN is not the important part the continual evolution and progress is if you still want to hit your goals.

Hopefully you will have recharged over the holiday period and learned some stress busting techniques. If you feel anxious about getting back to work after your break, then your first step is to take some deep breaths.

Your next step is to invest some time in reviewing your plans. This is worthwhile, because things will have changed, whether expected or unexpected.

Moving forwards after getting back to work

  • Be ruthless, you have three months left until Christmas. What is worth keeping from your plans, what should you junk?
  • Be realistic– some of your plans need more time to implement- don’t stress over these, put a note next to them to revisit in January.
  • Be rational. What can you truly get done in the time you have and what will give you the best return? I am a believer in dreams; implementing strategies that fulfil your true purpose, but I also know that bills must be paid! Be aware that for many industries January can be a quiet and unprofitable month. You need to maximise this quarter’s revenue to tide you over.

Don’t forget to connect. Your clients may also be feeling the stress of getting back to work and would welcome some clear advice from you. If you have gently kept in touch over the summer break, now is the time to capitalise on that relationship. Remind them of your discussion, help them clarify their own goals and you should find that you become top of mind when they need to implement their own changes.

Getting back to work after a holiday need not be difficult if you employ some stress reduction and keep a clarity of purpose.

If your holiday has thrown up some issues about what you are doing with your life (this often happens) don’t make any hasty decisions, allow those thoughts to simmer. Sometimes we need a break to get perspective, but holiday dreams can wither in the harsh reality of Winter. If you know that change is needed- then apply your planning techniques to that change and if possible, test out a few of those holiday ideas. Any major change needs planning and if you can focus on what is needed for success this quarter you can create time for consideration of future, significant change.

Maintaining communication – keeping the connection

Keeping Open the Lines of Communication- maintaining communication is important

Most industries have a lull during their trading year.  There is almost always a month where not much is going on in sales or where the closure rate is no longer as imperative as it was in the other months. You may be making fewer sales calls but maintaining communication is still important.

Maybe a lot of your clients are on holiday and your business is not holiday related. Maybe you have taken a break too, come back, and found that customers are still quiet- saving up their spend for the next quarter.

Don’t consider this month as a fallow month.  It is an opportunity to get things done that have been left in abeyance such as clearing out, destroying old papers, re-organising systems, researching potential developments, implementing test projects in preparation of the busier times to follow.

You may have had a stressful year to date- so also take the time to reflect, consider how to buffer yourself against potential stress as things hot up again.

Another crucial factor to remember during this period is your connections.  This quieter period is an ideal time to foster those relations further.

I just called to say…hello- maintaining communication

Take the time to make a call just for a general discussion.  Attend more networking meetings to encourage new connections and how about going out for lunch with your most important connections? Maintaining communication without pressing for a deal may open up new possibilities.

Remember, at the end of the day, people will do business with you because they LIKE you. Give them the opportunity of having your personal connection and time devoted to them.

Caveat: Don’t use this quieter period as an excuse to take your foot of the accelerator – just be a little gentler with your revving. If you disconnect too much from work it can be hard to get back into the swing of things. The idea is to balance some work “housekeeping” with maintaining lines of communication with clients, potential clients and maybe potential joint ventures. You may find that busy person, impossible to get hold of usually, is available during the holiday season as they too take this time to reflect and regroup. Build the holiday season into your planning and use it as a useful review period to ensure you end the year on a positive note.

The Return Deadline

Come September people are going to be flooding back into the office.  Children will return to school, parents will have more time to concentrate back at work without the holiday distractions and suddenly the impetus will start climbing as things gather a new urgency with business managers keeping a wary eye on the approaching festive season and financial year end deadlines.

Because of the creative and useful time maintaining communication that you have spent in the preceding month you are going to be ready to take full advantage.

You will already know what targets to hit. You will have your strategies lined up with the assets ready to be sent out.  As the auto-replies come off email communications you will be one step ahead as cohesive, helpful suggestions with calls to action messages get distributed.

Take advantage of the few days or weeks that others will need to get back into the swing of things and progress your cause. Hopefully during this lull, you will have also recharged your batteries- learned some stress busting techniques  to get you through the coming hectic period.



Beating Stress & Having Fun; Hobbies & Interests

The importance of hobbies and interests in beating stress

Most of us pride ourselves on working so hard and effectively that we find we don’t have time to indulge our interests outside of work.  What we forget is that these outside interests may well make us more productive inside. Not only that- research shows that people who have hobbies and interests are far more effective at beating stress when it strikes.

When was the last time you took a whole day to read a book?  When you go on holiday do you put your phone/tablet away and leave work things until your return? Do you have periods where you switch off from work entirely? Most important of all what do you do for FUN?

Having fun and beating stress

I am as bad as the next person. I haven’t had a proper holiday now for 4 years and have a stack of books I have been meaning to read by my bedside.  However, this is somewhat offset by the fact that I travel for my speaking events and take a few days either before or after to explore where I am or lounge around near a beach.  I also started a rule some time ago that on Sunday’s (unless imperative) I will not turn on my pc or look at my tablet which has freed up my time to stick my nose in a book and lose myself for a few hours.

Explore what you might enjoy.  It might be going to the gym (yuk), it might be roaming the countryside and having a picnic, it might be taking up a new hobby (I’ve just taken up archaeology and am loving it).  It could be anything just make sure it is not work related and makes you smile and relax.

The beauty of a hobby is that you can switch off from work demands and literally, “go somewhere else”. When you are absorbed in an activity your brain can focus on that activity alone and the other concerns literally get filed away. This is like a holiday for your brain and all those neurons that over fire during anxiety can rest.

A side benefit of having a hobby or interest is not just beating stress but warding off disease.

Research has suggested that combining good nutrition with mental, social and physical activities may have a greater benefit in maintaining or improving brain health than any single activity.

Stress is bad for your brain health and as you get older you may find yourself becoming forgetful or unable to focus. By giving your brain a break from the demands of your workload, you improve its cognitive ability and this can be helpful in not just beating stress overload but also in warding off diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Making time for hobbies and beating stress is possible

And if you are still saying “I don’t have enough time” – yes you do. In a week, there are 168 hours of which you sleep 56 and 40 are normal business hours – that still leaves you 72 hours per week to do something else if you want to.

It does take planning and commitment and sometimes the best way to do this is to schedule your downtime. If your calendar looks full, find a slot each day/week that you block off just for “you time”.

Plan breaks between periods of activity to allow the business of the day to filter down to your subconscious (where lots of ideas and solutions lurk). I find that walking away from a problem for a while often helps a solution to present itself. So, engaging in a hobby for an hour- or just doing a crossword, reading a chapter of a book etc. allows your brain to rest and think through a problem in your subconscious while your conscious brain is having fun.

If you are a workaholic- you will find that after a while you become less effective. It is not “heroic” to keep pushing yourself through this- it is counter-productive. Beating stress is not an option- it can severely compromise your ability to function. So, do yourself a favour, step back, take some time out and when you return to your work you will be refreshed and more effective.

The Dangers of Stress – And How to Overcome Stress

Is it important to overcome stress?

It’s been well documented the work hours lost attributed to stress.  An expensive condition to both employee, employer and the self-employed.  And yet we still push ourselves to the limit and don’t raise our heads enough to notice that this month is a perfect time to slow down a little.

According to medical research the physical problems related to chronic stress include the lowering of the immune response, chronic muscle tension, and increased blood pressure. These problems can eventually lead to serious life-threatening illnesses such as heart attacks, kidney disease, and cancer.

When your immune system is compromised you are prone to catching colds, fevers and any bug in proximity- you literally cannot fight off infection. You may find that as soon as you relax, such as go on holiday, you get ill and then as you are forced to rest you recover and eventually feel much better than prior to the illness. The adrenaline of working can keep your immune response functioning but all you are doing is stacking up the impact of the underlying stress for later.

Stress leads to everyday niggles such as headaches, insomnia, panic attacks, general aches and pains and a feeling of being “under the weather”. More serious long term effects of stress are depression, weight loss or gain and mood swings that disrupt your work and family life.

Take a stress break

A vast swathe of the working population is now entering the summer holiday season when their sprogs are off school and need catering for in other ways.  Noting that the ideal is not to leave them glued to their phones or game consoles thoughts turn to taking off for an annual getaway. How best to keep them entertained…How best to deal with the increased costs of looking after them….They might get 7 weeks off but can you afford to?  All this induces a different kind of stress which is equally as damaging. You are supposed to be taking a break and overcoming stress but all that is happening is the stress triggers have changed.

For us childless people August brings another type of stress.  With so many others off work for large chunks of time our work automatically slows down as fewer decisions are made or are deferred until after the summer break.  Particularly for the self-employed this can be extremely frustrating e.g. not many companies have conferences in August so my work dries up!

However, the trick is to embrace this change of pace.  It’s going to happen and there is nothing you can do to stop it so accept it and make the best of the slower period ahead.

Overcoming stress – some practical tips

Don’t wait until your holidays to tackle your stress- but make the most of this break to set yourself up with some good habits.

It’s all about pacing yourself. That means getting a regular good night’s sleep and eating properly as the basics.

Taking care of yourself is not selfish, it is necessary.

If you are working then your organisation may offer some stress busting activities as part of their staff welfare program- take advantage of them

If you are self-employed, then when you do your annual planning, identify your peaks and troughs. Build in a break in the quiet times and use those times for long term planning that will save you time when you are busy.

If you are a parent- planning activities you all enjoy can be as simple as playing sports, going for walks, or playing card games when it rains. The holiday away may not be within your budget but kids value your time more than expensive holidays so stop beating yourself up about it.

Overall, take the impact of stress seriously. If you have a constant headache, feel ill and fed up most of the time- chances are you are experiencing stress. Take some time each day for some deep breathing. Plan your weeks to minimise stressful situations and when all else fails, get outside in the fresh air and walk. Studies show that nature is one of the best cures for feeling stressed.

I will be covering some stress busting techniques in later articles, but would be interested to hear any of your tips- just comment below.

The Blame Game – a game with no winners

For more years than I care to remember I have heard numerous companies stating that they ‘want to get away from the blame game’ they want to promote a culture of inclusivity where employees can voice concerns or point out problems without fear of retribution.

However, I see very little evidence that this is not more than just something to be said rather than a true cultural shift.

Coming back down to basics; an employee will always feel that their position is vulnerable.  If not from external forces, as we are seeing, such as economics forcing workforce rationalisation but also from internal pressures such as being regarded as a trouble maker. Employees in general, are afraid that if they lift their heads above the parapets to complain, they will be shot at!

Avoiding the blame game

A progressive employer wants to encourage employee participation and will listen to their views whether they be good or bad.  One way to achieve this, to remove the fear of retribution, is to set up some form of confidential feedback reporting.  A system that is completely anonymous but allows those who care about their employer and want the whole company to do well to give feedback. A way for them to express their opinions, thoughts and views which the employer can then take on board. It needn’t be complicated.  Even a simple suggestions box tucked in the corner would do or an anonymised feedback from online.

Public sector organisations have a written whistle blower policy for the more serious concerns and many large companies have the same. The term whistle-blower dates to the 19th century when policemen used to blow their whistles to alert the public of impending danger or crime. However, Ralph Nader, the US civic activist made it popular as a more positive spin on the idea of being a “snitch” or a “grass”.

When the blame game gets serious

Whistle-blowers take a huge risk when exposing unethical behaviour, illegal conduct or misdeeds, whether within a public or private sector organisation. Although protected by law, the law is vague and open to interpretation and many have lost their jobs or even been prosecuted. Hardly surprising then, that many employees keep their heads down and say nothing.

If something is going wrong within a company the front-line employee is far more likely to be aware than those sitting on the board of directors. A progressive company understand this and welcomes constructive feedback from their workforce. More importantly, a company has an ethical duty to eradicate sexism, racism and bullying from their workplace. They cannot do this if these incidents go unreported.

Signs that the blame game is in operation are; low productivity; high staff turnover; high sickness and absence rates. This indicates that somewhere in management, someone is not taking responsibility for the welfare of their employees. They are blaming, rather than listening.

Concern yourself more with accepting responsibility than with assigning blame. Let the possibilities inspire you more than the obstacles discourage you

Ralph Marston

The 21st century blame game

In this age of technology, companies would be well advised to take employee discontent seriously. In much the same way that an angry customer can leave a scathing review on their website or slam them on Facebook, so too can a frustrated employee. Moaning about work may be a national pastime, but social media enables those moans to go viral. Yes, if an employee writes defamatory comments about their company the organisation can sue them for libel, but is that the best solution?

Would it not be better to allow the employee a safe platform on which to air their grievances? Many schools do this well, with student suggestion boxes around the building. They then follow this up with student council meetings at which the suggestions are discussed.

Dismantling the blame game culture

Employees who feel their voice is heard tend to be more productive. If the culture is one of “keep quiet and get on with it” the company is guilty of a subtle form of bullying. The employer does have the power and most workers know this. They can strike, if they have a grievance and a union to back them, but surely that is a last resort?

The first step to dismantling the blame culture is to view all opinions as having equal validity. The marketing director may be angry and worried about the overspend on advertising budget by their ad manager. The ad manager may feel that the wrong instructions were given and is now terrified of losing their job. The reality may be that the system for setting budgets is flawed. Blame does not resolve this and costs the company money.

Allowing employees to express their opinions requires the company to listen first. Then there needs to be acknowledgement- the views have been heard, the company is investigating. Finally, there needs to be action- steps taken and the results fed back to the employees.

The imperative is that the employer actively promotes the system to their employees and then ensures they read what is said and act/report back on any issues raised.

Round Peg/Square Hole – the skills and job mismatch

I’ve deliberately switched this saying around as have you not sometimes come across people who don’t quite seem to fit their role and are rattling around knocking against the sides of their expected employment?

It could be that their role is not challenging them enough, or is too challenging.  It could be that their personal skills do not suit the role that has been allocated to them.  They may need more guidance, training or even given their head to develop their role.

Square pegs struggling with round holes just don’t fit and it can be easier for them to make a change in job or career. Your round peg employee has, on paper, all the skills needed for their job but somehow it just isn’t working. People in these situations are often discontented or have gripes that are ultimately destabilising for the rest of the team and company. They threaten to become that “difficult employee” everyone gossips about or, worse, triggers complaints.

As an outsider often brought in to help with company change and transition I meet quite a few of these round peg people.  It is such a shame as the skills they do have or the contribution they could make are missed.  These employees are aware that their abilities are potentially not being maximised. They may find parts of their job extremely tedious because it is way below their actual talent. Some parts of their work may be way outside their comfort zone, the gap between their ability and the requirements so great that it leaves them frustrated and anxious. In these cases, they will become challenging to work with as they try to avoid the areas that bore them while dodging the areas they struggle with.

Avoiding round peg dilemmas

In the fast changing 21st century jobs often must evolve to keep up and this can trigger a mismatch between skill level and job requirements. An employee who originally was a fit, becomes disillusioned at these changes; their job no longer matches their ability to perform it.

Here are some steps to help you avoid this situation

Step 1:

Creating detailed person specifications and job descriptions for each role in a company ensures a proper match when recruiting.

Step 2:

Reviewing these roles as change occurs will identify training needs for current employees

Step 3:

Implementing regular training to upskill employees will help fill the gap between current and needed skills.

Step 4:

Performance appraisal that is constructive, not punitive will identify a discontented employee before their disillusionment has an impact on the team and the company.

Perhaps checking at an annual review with specific, non-blaming questions might bring situations like this to light and enable relative minor changes that would retain a valuable member of staff.

Step 5:

Consider job rotation as a method to keep employees engaged, interested and their skills updated.

When an employee just doesn’t fit with the company ethos

Sometimes the round peg syndrome is because of a shift in company ethos. Change happens and change management is a crucial part of a company’s development. Some employees resent their jobs changing and resist. They do not see the gap between their skills and the job requirements as a positive challenge; they see it as a threat. As a business goes through transition it throws up many challenges and often brings to light those round peg employees.

To successfully effect change you need your employees to be on board so you cannot ignore their discontent. If you are an employee experiencing this and feeling as if your world is tilting, then take a good hard look at how you see your role. It may be time to get out of that square hole completely, whether shifting jobs within your current organisation or changing jobs totally.

Being a round peg in a square hole can be unsettling, but it does not have to be ongoing.  It may be that only a few tweaks to the role are needed to enable a comfortable fit. I have a helpful free guide on dealing with change – The Change Reaction that looks at how we deal with the necessary changes life and work throw at us. If you are an organisation going through changes and are discovering a lot of round pegs, then contact me to discuss how I can help.

Creative Space and brilliant ideas

creative space

Does your business have a creative space?

Now here is a business idea I love and have adopted myself.

At one of my clients’ offices I saw a glassed off area within their normal offices.  Inside were beanbags, funky paintings, an area with jelly beans and other treats, wipeable painted walls and decor that suggested a fun, light and airy playground rather than a stuffy office environment.  This was their creative area.

Employee team meetings were held in this area and the whole emphasis was on being creative.  No idea was too silly or nuts not to be considered.  It was scribbled up on the walls and then followed or discarded by further scribbling and noted thought processes.

Enjoyment and relaxation while thinking was the raison d’etre of this room and my client advised me that some startling yet great ideas had come from meetings such as these which had then shaped the company’s onward policies and tactics.

Brilliant.  And I can’t see why this would not work in any office, industry environment.  If we want the best from ourselves and our people surely creativity is where we will find it?

Making a creative space for yourself or your employees

If you are an entrepreneur and working from home it can be difficult to have that creative space. Maybe your office doubles up as a study for other members of the household or is just a space in the family living room. If possible, try to create a separate space for thinking and working, away from family and home life. I know entrepreneurs who use their conservatory or even their sheds as creative spaces. Outdoors can be a great place to think. If this isn’t possible, then home-based business owners could take themselves off for a spa day or play a round of golf, to relax, chat, and think away from the “office”.

If you are a business then consider creating a brainstorming, creative space for employees, following the example of my client. You may need to get creative to make the space, so think about those unused areas that you keep for occasional use or those landings between offices that generally have a few plants a picture and a couple of chairs nobody ever sits in.  As meetings tend to be outside client hours (or should be) – landings are a greatly unused space perfect for some free thinking.

The benefits of creative space for innovation

Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result. All too often business is told it needs to be innovative but has few tools with which to inspire innovation. So, brainstorming meetings take place weekly, in the same surroundings that are styled for professional conformity. It is kind of hard to think outside of the box, from within a box.

What goes on in the space you choose is important; relaxed rules, no idea too foolish etc…but the actual environment has an impact on the thinking taking place. How many of you have had great ideas relaxing in the bath? Or out jogging, or simply lazing in your back garden? The reason is that your mind has been freed from the routine thinking that characterises your daily work life.

Now, I am not suggesting a bath time team brainstorming; but a relaxed and informal environment frees the mind from the constricts of corporate thinking.

Plants, real ones, releasing oxygen feed the brain and running water has been shown to calm the brain waves and allow freer thinking. There is another upside to this which is more engaged and loyal employees. Allowing a space for creative thinking empowers employees and encourages them to contribute to the company strategy. This then gives them a sense of ownership of company progress which is highly motivating. Motivated employees tend to be more productive, so it’s a win, win, scenario.

So, next time you are trying to infuse some energy and change into your company, consider- do you have a creative space to enable those potential brilliant ideas?

What is the Point of Lessons if we don’t learn?

learn lessons

As well as being upset, along with the rest of the nation, as to the recent tragedy unfolding with the Grenfell fire I have also been deeply aggravated by the governments’ response of setting up a public inquiry into what happened and what were the causes.

Every time a major public tragedy occurs this is their stock response. However, as I personally discovered and as I fear we will see again, what is the point of holding public inquiries, finding out the ‘why’ when little tangible action is then taken to implement recommendations that are made?

Everyone wants to learn the same thing from painful situations: how to avoid repeating them.

Gary Zukav

Learn lessons from the past, then apply them.

They pour time, effort and public money into these types of inquiries but to what purpose?

By their very nature inquiries take a great deal of time, often years to conclude and by the time they do come out with findings and recommendations the immediate furore tied to the incident has died down and the will to make the necessary changes seems to have evaporated.

I can think of numerous examples where the time delay has led to exactly this happening and the authorities then shelve the findings as the things that need to be put right are inconvenient or too costly in their opinion. Lessons are clearly given but the will to learn from them melts away.

The only times I can think of when inquiry recommendations have been enforced and put into action have been where survivors or those affected by the incident have had the patience and energy to keep campaigning for them to be done.  I know this first hand as if I had not set up the Paddington Survivors Group and we had not then spent 5 years of our lives pushing, insisting and generally being a nuisance to the establishment our inquiry findings would have been ignored just as they had been from Clapham and Southall before us.

Cutting through red tape, learn lessons, take action.

It is simply not right.  The will should be there and remain there to make the improvements necessary and action should follow. There must be a better way to apply the lessons learned from tragedy in a timely fashion so that we prevent further tragedies occurring.

Business can be guilty of this too. When faced with disquiet amongst employees for example, they conduct internal surveys to identify the concerns. Then, they ignore the findings!

When something is going wrong; people affected naturally want to know why. Business leaders, governments, councils and those in authority have a duty to explore and investigate. However, investigating is only appropriate if you are then committed to actioning the results. All too often, the results are unpalatable; someone is to blame, mistakes have been made. The ostrich reaction is to ignore the results, bury them, delay action, argue the cost implications and do nothing.

Leadership is about accountability, responsibility and action. When something goes wrong, be it accidental, negligence, cost cutting, poor decision making or outright fraud; leaders step up and act. When disaster strikes and people’s lives are affected, responsible leaders find a way to cut through the red tape and fix it. Watch how fast a business will change course in the face of competition or a government will pass a bill that affects the immediate economy when it is needed. It can be done, it just takes the will and smart thinking.

An alternative to a public inquiry is an independent review.

In some cases, there may well be alternatives. The recent – highly revealing and highly cathartic – report on Hillsborough was handled not by a public inquiry but by an independent panel. Lawyer free, much cheaper and quicker, and, in that case, chaired by a bishop.

One of the problems with public inquiries is the heavy involvement of lawyers who slow down the process, add costs and whose legalese recommendations are too obscure for many of the public to understand. Public inquiries may be prompted by a need to feel something is being done- and will therefore disappoint if no action is taken. They can provide a catharsis for those affected by tragedy, but frustration when they drag on too long. They may demand accountability, but actual prosecution and/or blame may be a long time coming.

Ultimately, when tragedy strikes, we all want to know, why? Could this have been prevented? However, the process for discovering this should be as swift as possible, outcomes focused and recommendations succinct or no lessons will be learned.

Do You Ask the Advice of Others?

We don’t like asking the advice of others especially when it is exposing a weakness in ourselves.  However, keeping quiet and not asking is a recipe for disaster.

Sure, to err is human and I believe we learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes however it is better to make an informed mistake rather than an un-informed one.

The advice of others can improve your decision making

When considering any new task, even if you have researched thoroughly and formed your opinion or decision, I would urge that you run it past someone that you trust, respect or has more knowledge than you in the field.

If you worry about what they may think of you asking for the advice of others, perhaps you need to consider what you are afraid of. Do you feel as if you must behave like the expert, all knowing and all powerful? Are you worried they will think less of you? If their reaction is to belittle you; they were the wrong person to ask. Yes, choose who you ask for help carefully, but don’t suffer on alone when you are stuck or not quite sure if you are on the right track.

In my experience, truly successful people are willing to give advice generously and they also ask the advice of others. They are not so proud that they don’t value other’s perspective and their motivation is to achieve the best they can. Whether that is a new product, approach, way of thinking or a service; getting advice from others can improve the outcome.

The advice of others can spot mistakes

A fresh pair of eyes on things is never a bad thing.  Sometimes we get too close to our subject and can miss a vital or obvious detail that they may spot.  If their knowledge is greater, helpful suggestions normally follow which only goes to improve your final offering.

This is why I am an advocate for mentors.  I develop relationships and connections with people that I do value the advice of and they are my first port of call before launching any new idea or concept into the public domain. One of the greatest benefits of mentors is that they bring their own experience to the table, but they will often challenge you to take risks. They should also be part of your circle of positive people I have written about before, which helps you to take a positive approach to your challenges.

Even the most apparently successful and famous people have mentors. There is always someone who knows more than you and, conversely, someone who knows less. The trick is knowing who to ask and who, in return you can offer advice to. It is a two-way street, this giving of advice.

It is especially crucial to tap into the expertise of mentors if you are an entrepreneur. Starting a business can be scary, but it does not have to be a solo journey.

The idea of launching a business should no longer be a scary or daunting experience, riddled with unknowns. It should be a collaborative experience accumulating the learnings of the hundreds of local entrepreneurs who have already built successful businesses, and can help you move faster and avoid known pitfalls based on their years of experience, as entrepreneurs themselves.

Source: Forbes

Beware the advice dragons!

There is a however.  Sometimes we can get too much advice and sometimes it is not asked for.  I would always advise that you politely listen but remember that in the end it is your decision.  There are, sadly, those whose sense of self-importance extends to giving frequently unasked-for advice.

These are often those who are threatened by a new way of thinking; the “out of the box” idea that challenges the old way of doing things. Try to pick through the advice to discern bias from practical suggestions and see if there is any truth you can use. Sometimes within their negative reaction are kernels of truth you may need to accept.

However, ultimately you are the one who must live with the outcomes of any decisions you make, not those advising you.

Provided you are willing to accept the consequences, good or bad, of your informed decision then go with it even if it is at the expense of ignoring some of the advice of others you have received.

Don’t Dismiss Until You’ve Tried It

One of my pet hates is when someone announces that they definitely don’t like something (e.g. Indian or Chinese Food).  “Have you tried it then” I will enquire to which the answer is invariably “no”.  So how on earth do they know they don’t like it.

Some of our likes and dislikes are inherited; our parents didn’t like something and we followed suit. Or a dislike is based upon fear; fear of trying something new, resistance to new ideas because they are out of our comfort zone. Some dislikes are based upon ignorance. Maybe we heard somebody say something was bad/disgusting/dangerous/pointless etc and we took what we heard as truth, without checking it out for ourselves.

It is the same with business ideas.  Don’t be too quick to dismiss something, a suggestions or idea until you’ve investigated it further or tried it out.

Try it out, dare to be different

Some of my most successful ideas have come from the pottiest of ideas.  “I wonder if…” is a phrase I use all the time.  I will at least have a cogitate over the idea, bending and twisting it, following through mental paths before deciding if it is viable to act upon or really is a non-starter.

Clive Sinclair may have been dismissed as nuttier than a fruitcake with his weird looking electric car the C5 but the idea of an electric car was not dismissed.  The Toyota Auris Hybrid is certainly sexier than the C5 but it uses Sinclair’s concepts and elevates them to a car you can feel good about driving and is ecologically sounder than it’s petrol rivals.

Sometimes we dismiss ideas because they don’t “fit” with how we see ourselves. I may have been a champion for rail safety but I don’t see myself as very adventurous when it comes to physical challenges.

Hot air ballooning was an idea suggested that I might try. ‘Uh oh I don’t think so’ was my initial reaction as I don’t have a great head for heights but my second thought was ‘what the hell – I’m here so I’ll have a go’.  It did help that we floated above the Valley of the Kings so the scenery was spectacular but I’ll always remember the feelings of exhilaration and clarity once my fear had subsided.

Similarly post the rail crash I was faced with many challenges; the greatest being, what do I do now? I could not afford to dismiss ideas out of hand as I was literally reinventing myself. Many companies face that dilemma when the old way of doing things is no longer working. They may want to retreat to the safety of what they know, but if that is not giving them success, then new ideas and a different direction are needed.

Some of the world’s greatest breakthroughs have come from a lateral approach and a willingness to say, “What if?”

Feel the fear and try it…

I harness these same feelings now when I am faced by situations that I am not keen on and sail smoothly through them accomplishing the goal the situation offered.

Rather than dismiss an idea I suggest you “Don’t knock it, till you try it”. If fear is holding you back, identify the source of the fear before dismissing a potential new experience. Sometimes that fear is fear of ridicule; we hate to look foolish. Or, it can be a genuine fear for your safety; in which case, do your due diligence. Most scary pastimes are in fact, absolutely safe.

A friend of mine was terrified of roller coasters, without ever having been on one. She conquered that by going on a trip with her sixth form students, who held her hand, took photos and all cheered when she reached the end of her first ride. The rush she felt having achieved this, meant they couldn’t keep her off the scary rides for the rest of the day!

At the very least; try new foods, new social occasions; go to the theatre, or the ballet if you have never been, it can be quite an eye opener. By opening yourself up to new experiences you often find out new things about yourself.

Don’t be too quick to judge something you have never experienced; if you try it you may surprise yourself.

If I try something and really don’t like it I won’t repeat the experience but I am content that at least I tried.